Throwback: Dathan Ritzenhein Wins Foot Locker in 2000

* Dathan Ritzenhein (right) and Sara Bei (and later Hall) together after winning Foot Locker National titles in 2000.

Photo Credit: Foot Locker Cross Country

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With Addison Ritzenhein breaking through this past weekend in Portland at Nike Cross Nationals and Foot Locker Nationals set for San Diego on Saturday, it seems only fitting to take a walk down memory lane and reminisce on Dathan Ritzenhein's 2000 Foot Locker win.

Addison Ritzenhein's talent runs in the family, as her father, Dathan, the current head coach of the On Athletics Club, is the former American record-holder at 5,000 meters and a former Foot Locker Nationals champion, while her mother Kalin (formerly Toedebusch) was a fifth-place finisher at Foot Locker Nationals in 2000 and an All-American in college at Colorado. 

Twenty-three years ago, Ritzenhein, a high school senior running for Rockford out of Michigan, was the reigning champion for Foot Locker Nationals. As a junior, he took both the Midwest regional and national titles, scoring the fastest time of 14:29.83 in meet history for the latter.

In 2000, the race would fall into the pantheon of top Foot Locker races of all time. Alan Webb of Virginia and Ryan Hall of California were pitted against him as his main competition.

Dubbed the "Big Three," these seniors held some of the fastest seed times going into nationals.

Ritz and Webb sported undefeated seasons and their respective regional races, with Hall coming from a fourth place finish.

With Ritz being the defending champion and holding the meet record, the Michigan stud was the race favorite.

Expected to go out fast and lead the race, he took a different approach. Instead, Wesley Keating from New York went out fast from the gun and maneuvered his way to the front harnessing an early lead, while Ritz conserved his energy.

Video Credit: Casey Croad/Youtube

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Just before the first mile, Ritz took off for the lead and began distancing himself from the front pack, clocking a 4:47 split. He began picking up the pace as he separated himself from the pack. Webb held on, while Ryan Hall followed. 

Flying through the second mile mark in 4:37, Ritz continued to shake off his two competitors, isolating himself farther from Webb with a healthy gap.The Rockford runner went on to take the Foot Locker Nationals title for the second year in a row.

Although Ritz didn't break his junior time, he still managed to hold off two elite caliber runners, running 20 seconds ahead of Webb and 24 seconds ahead of Hall, toeing the line at 14:35. The Big Three finished 1-2-3, the only runners to dip under 15-minutes that day.

Interestingly enough, Dathan's future wife, Kalin, was fifth in the girls race, while Ryan Hall's future wife, Sara, won the Foot Locker Nationals title. Dathan and Kalin enrolled at Colorado that next fall, while Ryan and Sara went to Stanford. 

Ritz claimed five MHSAA titles over his high school career, two Foot Locker Midwest titles and two Foot Locker National wins.

He was the runner-up at the 2001 U.S. Cross Country Championships and finished third on the podium at the IAAF World Championships.

During his time at Colorado, Ritz became both an individual and team NCAA cross country title holder and a Big 12 3K, 5K, and 8K champion. He later went on professionally to break the 5,00 meter American-record and qualified for the Olympics three times. He now coaches the On Athletics Club. 

Related Links:

- Interview with Dathan Ritzenhein on FloTrack

- Addison Ritzenhein Wins NXN National Title

- Addison Ritzenhein NXN Interview